This ceramic “Threshold” brand (made in Portugal for Target) terracotta appetizer / olive / salsa dish was positive for Lead at levels as high as 4,000 parts per million (ppm), when tested with an XRF instrument. [Tested in 2018].
This is remarkable (and a good example to share), because it is important to make the distinction between the plain white ceramic Threshold pieces and pieces like this, which have an orange-y terracotta base and are coated in a thicker white glaze.
The plain white Threshold pieces (with a white ceramic base) have consistently tested negative for Lead (non-detect / Lead-free) or Lead-safe (below 90 ppm Lead); however, I was not surprised when this piece tested positive – for three reasons:
#1) most “Made In Portugal” items I have tested have been positive for at least some amount of Lead in the glaze, and
#2) even newly-manufactured items – that have this “handmade” look (vs. the more common “mass-manufactured / “refined polish” look of the white china / ceramic Threshold items) – are more likely to test positive for Lead, and
#3) while terra-cotta style base clay can be Lead-free (or low-Lead), most glazed terracotta pieces I have tested (regardless of the country of origin) have been positive for Lead in the glaze (usually at very high levels.) A good example of items like this that are consistently high-Lead are glazed terra-cotta planters (that you might buy at a typical gardening store.)
It’s also a myth that “plain white items are less likely to test positive for Lead”. Plain white can be as high-Lead (and sometimes even higher Lead) than some decorated items – as “Lead White” is an actual commercial base-color for pigments. To see more white ceramic items I have tested, CLICK HERE.
Levels above 90 ppm Lead (in the paint / glaze or coating of an item) are considered unsafe (and illegal) in newly-manufactured items intended for use by children. Dishes however, are not regulated for total Lead content, as detectable with an XRF instrument, and as such, this is not considered illegal in any way. [Dishes are generally not considered to be “items intended for use by children” – unless they are dishes specifically made and sold as “infant” dishes (or “toddler “dishes or similar).]
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